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The Internet giant has spent $1.1 billion on acquisitions so far this year.

By InvestorPlace Aug 2, 2010 10:21AM

Saving money © Creatas Images / JupiterimagesIn the Web-surfing world, Google (GOOG) is the undisputed king of searching. In the corporate boardroom, Google also appears to be the king of searching for startups to snatch up.


Despite what most folks would consider fairly lean times, Google has gone on a $1.1 billion shopping spree so far in 2010, buying up 22 companies.


The move shows that Google isn’t content to just rest on its search-engine laurels and is actively trying to grow and diversify its business. But the huge number of buyouts prompts the question of whether GOOG executives are making shrewd moves to stay on top or overreaching at a time when many corporations are on the defensive.

 

Will an energy-sector rally materialize?

By TheStreet Staff Aug 2, 2010 9:35AM

thestreetOil © Comstock/CorbisBy Don Dion, TheStreet

 

ETF investors will be watching closely to see whether a rally in the energy sector gains strength after the strong earnings of several major companies last week. Here are five ETFs to keep an eye on as the week unfolds.

 

1. iShares Dow Jones U.S. Oil & Gas Production & Exploration Index (IEO)

 

It's the second week of energy earnings and several IEO heavyweights will report, chief among them Anadarko Petroleum (APC) and Chesapeake Energy (CHK). APC comprises 7% of IEO and CHK is 4%.

 

Election-season politics and international crop shortages could help Deere & Co. outperform other machinery companies.

By Jim Cramer Aug 2, 2010 8:29AM

jim cramerBy Jim Cramer, TheStreet

 

We've had more false bottoms in the fertilizer stocks than in pretty much any other industry I have seen, but this time, I think it might be for real.

 

The conference call on Potash (POT) Thursday, coupled with the terrific Citigroup (C) upgrade on Friday, makes a compelling case that prices have bottomed. We've got low inventories around the world, a critical shortage of crops in China, making it a gigantic net importer, and no real scale supplies coming on. Canadian and Russian grain production could be down 23% and 20%, respectively.

 

All this means farmers will have to use as much fertilizer as possible to improve yields.

 

The stock market's struggles over the past few months have led some top strategists to very different conclusions

By John Reese Jul 30, 2010 6:47PM

Do the market's troubles this year signal a big buying opportunity, or an opportunity to get out before the real pain? It depends on whom you ask.

Some of the market's top minds are offering very divergent opinions on that topic. On the bullish side, for example, is Charles Schwab Chief Investment Strategist Liz Ann Sonders, who was on target with her calling of the start of the recent recession, and the turnaround that began last summer. Now, Sonders says, the market's troubles offer a chance to buy. “I’m not a market timer, so I’m not telling clients to back up the truck and load up,” she tells Kiplinger magazine. “But to me, this smacks of a buying opportunity. I think we can have an up year, but there could be a decent amount of pain between now and then.” Sonders says she's highest on healthcare and technology stocks, and she's skeptical of gold -- at least on a fundamental basis.

 

Top fund manager John Hussman thinks differently. Much differently. “We continue to observe a clear deterioration in leading indicators of economic activity,” Hussman writes in his latest market commentary on Hussman Funds’ web site. He thinks technical factors may drive the market higher in the short term. "[But] the historical evidence suggests that fundamentals have ultimately trumped technicals when we’ve observed similar warnings from economic indicators in the past. … My impression is that the economic cold water could hit investors very abruptly, so that gains achieved over several weeks may be suddenly erased in a matter of a few days.” His advice to those looking to the market to fund major expenses over a short period of years: “Get out.” His advice to those who have a long-term, diversified, disciplined system, however: “Stick to your discipline.”

 

 

The market was up one day, then down 3 days, then up again

By Jim Van Meerten Jul 30, 2010 6:18PM
That's really the only way to describe the market action this week -- Sideways. Not a lot of bad news but nothing to write home about either. Let's look at the 3 yardsticks I use each week with the data I mine from Barchart to get an objective view of what happened. I use 3 because no single indicator tells it all.

Value Line Index - contains 1700 stocks so its more representative of the market than the narrower S&P 500 or very narrow Dow 30. What can I say -- sideways

  • Index down .23% for the week but up 7.77% for the month
  • Up on Monday and Friday-- down on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
  • 40% Barchart short term buy
  • 16% Barchart overall buy - 6 of the 13 indicators are buy
  • Trend Spotter (tm) buy
  • Closed on Friday at 2394.84 just above its 50 day moving average of 2339.01

Barchart Market Momentum -- Contains approximately 6000 stocks -- Percentage of stocks that closed above their Daily Moving Averages for various time frames -- above 50% always good -- slightly weaker than last week but better than last month

 

The Japanese economy operates on the assumption that the government will always be able to borrow at low interest rates.

By V.N. Katsenelson Jul 30, 2010 5:06PM
Japan © Stockbyte/SuperStockInvestors are understandably scared of the sovereign debt crisis unfolding in Europe. Amid their angst, however, they are ignoring a more likely, and significantly larger, debt catastrophe that is about to hit the nation with the second-largest economy in the world: Japan.

Two decades of stimulative, low-interest-rate fiscal policy have made Japan the most indebted nation in the developed world, and as new Prime Minister Naoto Kan recently said, in his first address to Parliament, that situation is not sustainable.

Japan has little choice but to raise interest rates substantially, with dire consequences far beyond its shores.  

Toray must face Japan's poor economic news, but the company has growth potential worldwide.

By Jim J. Jubak Jul 30, 2010 4:17PM

Jim JubakThursday night's bad economic news out of Japan means Toray Industries (TRYIY) goes on our watch list.


As a Japanese company, Toray moves with Japan's stock market. But much of its business and most of its growth are outside Japan. (For more on the bad economic news out of Japan, see my post).


Toray Industries was founded in 1926 as Japan's first maker of synthetic textiles. Today, the company is still weaving and knitting exotic textiles -- including for two of the global growth stories of the next decade.

 

The buyer is a consortium led by L.A. billionaire Ron Tutor.

By TheWrap Jul 30, 2010 2:27PM

Pile of cash © CorbisThe deal finally got done. Late Thursday night, Walt Disney (DIS) announced the sale of Miramax to a consortium led by L.A. billionaire Ron Tutor.


Disney said the $660 million sale to Filmyard Holdings is expected to close by the end of the year.

The sale came almost 24 hours after the supposed final deadline for negotiating the deal, and one day after Disney spent close to the same sum it made on Miramax -- $563 million -- for social-media gaming developer Playdom.

 

The company reportedly has figured out how to dodge key parts of the financial reform bill.

By Kim Peterson Jul 30, 2010 2:00PM
Boss © RubberBall/SuperStockGoldman Sachs (GS) has had months to think about the new financial regulations the government is implementing. And by "think about," I mean "find loopholes in."

The company has come up with a way to get around some restrictions on trading, Charlie Gasparino reports on Fox Business. The company is turning some of its traders into "asset managers."

See, proprietary stock-trading operations are a no-no under the new financial reform legislation. And Goldman has a huge prop-trading desk. So it is simply moving about half of those operations into its asset management division, Gasparino reports. 

Some gas-station owners are wondering whether a name change -- at least in the U.S. -- would help.

By Kim Peterson Jul 30, 2010 1:45PM
Credit: (© Alastair Grant/AP)
Caption: BP stationBP (BP) has already ousted its chief executive in favor of American-born Bob Dudley. Now some observers wonder whether the British company should take on a more American name -- for its gas stations, at least.

BP gas stations still aren't too popular in parts of the country. People aren't quick to forget a disastrous and damaging oil spill, it seems.

So now some station owners are thinking a name change on their signs would be better, according to The Associated Press. Perhaps a change to Amoco, which at one time meant American Oil Co. 
Tags: BP

With the purchase of Playdom, Tapulous and even Marvel, Iger pays top dollar for a new generation of savvy customers.

By TheWrap Jul 30, 2010 1:09PM

Nobody can accuse Disney (DIS) chief Bob Iger of being stingy.


When he sees something he believes will help the venerable entertainment conglomerate evolve -- be it Marvel, Pixar or his latest bauble, social-media gaming developer Playdom -- he pays top dollar.


Over Iger's five-year stint in the top seat, Disney's acquisitions have totaled nearly $13 billion. Disney believes that's a small price to pay for a portfolio of brands that will help it attract a different generation of tech-savvy customers. 

 

Better second-quarter pricing directly generated $1.1 billion.

By TheStreet Staff Jul 30, 2010 12:06PM

thestreet.com

Ford Explorer. © 2010 Ford Motor CompanyBy Rafi Mohammed, TheStreet

 

Ford's (F) second-quarter pre-tax operating profit of $2.9 billion -- its best results in six years -- was recently announced with a "you ain't seen nothin' yet" sense of optimism. So what is Ford's "secret sauce" to higher profits? The return to its road-tested bag of pricing tactics.

 

In my first pricing book, The Art of Pricing (Crown Business, 2005), I used Ford as the poster child of the outsized profits that can be garnered from straightforward "better pricing" initiatives. In an interview with Lloyd Hansen, at the time the vice president of revenue management at Ford, he recalled the "Aha!" moment that led him to realize that pricing would be a powerful strategy to focus on.

 

The iconic gadget -- owned by 1 of every 26 people on Earth -- seems doomed to obsolescence.

By TheStreet Staff Jul 30, 2010 11:37AM

more finance and investment news from thestreet.com

By Jason Notte, TheStreet

 

As white earbuds yellow, dancing silhouettes slow and play lists share space with phone contacts, consumers are tuning out Apple's (AAPL) iPod.

 

A bouncy Apple announced better-than-expected quarterly earnings last week but missed a beat: iPod sales fell 14% from the quarter before and 4% from a year earlier.


Though iPod revenue actually rose 4% from last year, it tumbled 17% from the previous quarter, when it dropped 19%.

 

The American furniture-maker is well-run and makes a good play if you believe in the housing recovery.

By Jim Cramer Jul 30, 2010 9:05AM

jim cramerBy Jim Cramer, TheStreet

 

Why in heck is Ethan Allen (ETH) still in business? How can we afford to make furniture anymore? How can we do custom design. Isn't it too expensive? Upholstery? Must be all Chinese by now, no?

 

The answer is that Ethan Allen can stay in business, unlike pretty much every other furniture-maker in the U.S., because Farooq Kathwari runs the company and he won't let it fail. The man's been in charge for 25 years, a period during which pretty much everyone else went under.

 

He's having a pretty darned good year, too -- one that's much better than last year (admittedly easy comparison) and one during which the gross margins are looking really amazing. He used the Great Recession to close a huge, unwieldy distribution and manufacturing system -- it is a domestic, vertically integrated company -- and streamline the whole process from the creation to the stores. It has also shifted toward the high end, to custom design, and now makes more than half of the product with cloth -- upholstered -- not just its hallmark wood.

 

 

Looks like fertilizer purchases could go up this year and next, tightening supplies.

By Jim J. Jubak Jul 29, 2010 7:24PM

Jim JubakListening to the Potash of Saskatchewan (POT) conference call Thursday, I kept thinking that someone was going to yell, "Cue the plague of locusts!"


In Russia, grain production will fall by 20% because of drought, the company said. Canadian wheat production is forecast to be down 20% because of flooding during planting season. In India, after a string of bad harvests from insufficient monsoon rains, too much rain is rotting crops in storage. 


The company forecast that China would have to import about 75% of its soybean needs in 2010 and 1.7 million tons of corn. India could hit record levels of grain imports. 

 

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[BRIEFING.COM] The Nasdaq Composite (+0.5%) and S&P 500 (+0.2%) posted modest gains on Thursday, but not before enduring a morning dip into the red, which took place in reaction to reports indicating Russia has commenced military exercises on the Ukrainian border.

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